On the Prehistory of QWERTY

Koichi Yasuoka and Motoko Yasuoka

QWERTY keyboard is widely used for information processing nowadays in Japan, United States, and other countries. And the most frequently asked question about the keyboard is: "Why are the letters of the keyboard arranged the way they are?" Several papers in the field of information processing answer the question like this: "To slow down the operator." It's nonsense.

In this paper we reveal the prehistory of QWERTY keyboard along the history of telegraph apparatus: Morse, Hughes-Phelps, and Teletype. The early keyboard of Type-Writer was derived from Hughes-Phelps Printing Telegraph, and it was developed for Morse receivers. The keyboard arrangement very often changed during the development, and accidentally grew into QWERTY among the different requirements. QWERTY was adopted by Teletype in the 1910's, and Teletype was widely used as a computer terminal later.


Koichi Yasuoka and Motoko Yasuoka: On the Prehistory of QWERTY, ZINBUN, No.42 (March 2011), pp.161-174.